Well, another year of Pitt basketball, and another one-and-done tournament exit. It’s becoming a disturbing trend. Pitt has not made an appearance in the second half of the NCAA tournament since 2009 when they lost to Villanova in the Elite 8. Here’s a look back on this past season, and some thoughts on what lies ahead.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t as engaged as I normally am with Pitt basketball. For one of the few times over the last 30+ years of following Pitt basketball, I didn’t feel the need to watch or closely follow every game. One excuse may have been focusing on work, but I also felt disconnected from the team. The team had so many new names and faces that it really didn’t feel like the Pitt basketball team that I knew from the previous year.
While Pitt returned a few familiar faces in James Robinson, Mike Young, Jamel Artis, and Sheldon Jeter, they also added three graduate transfers, two JUCO players, a frosh. Unfortunately, none of these players made a significant impact, and while the team ran as much as 11 deep on some nights, the bulk of the scoring load was taken on by Young and Artis. Unfortunately, they just weren’t consistent enough to carry Pitt through the postseason.
Looking back, I had very low expectations for this year’s squad. They were picked 10th out of 15 teams in the ACC and had many unproven (and unkown) players who were expected to make major contributions.
The season got off to a great. start. They started 14-1, and were 3-0 in league play after a road win at Notre Dame. At that point it looked like they were Top 25 material. They were playing like a house on fire, and then they burnt down. They went 7-11 the rest of the way, finishing the season by losing four of their last five.
Fortunately, they made the NCAA tournament. For many teams, this would make for a successful season. Given the limitations of the year’s squad, it should be considered a success for Pitt. On the other hand, Pitt had such a good run under Coach Jamie Dixon during the 2000’s that expectations have grown for the program. People like me are itching for an extended tournament run and would like to see the team make a Final Four and have a shot at the National Championship. Will it happen next year? I highly doubt it, and I don’t see it happening in the foreseeable future either.
I’m not much of an X’s and O’s basketball person, but the team seems to be lacking two key ingredients: 1) A big man presence, and 2) athletic guards who can create their own shot. Until the team is able to remedy these issues, I see a team that will continue to be mired in mediocrity. I just don’t see this changing with next year’s recruiting class.
I’m not particularly looking forward to next season, which is a shame given my passion for Pitt basketball. Hopefully, Coach Dixon can address the team’s shortcomings, otherwise next year will be more of the same. I see a strong start and a team that will fade through conference play in the second half of the season.